Aug 28, 2009

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Technology in Second Language Teaching and Learning


Title: Technology and Second Language Teaching. (

The authors are people in the educational field who are concern of the use of technology in teaching and learning. Mark Warschauer is a Professor in the Department of Education and the Department of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine, and also the director of UCI's Ph.D. in Education program, and the founding director of UCI's Digital Learning Lab. He is concern in the integration of information and communication technologies (ICT) in schools and community centers, its impact on language and literacy practices and its relationship to institutional reform, democracy, and social development. He is also the former editor of Language Learning & Technology journal and founder of the Papyrus News blog. Carla Meskill on the other hand is a Professor in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice, at the University at Albany, State University of New York. Her researches discover new forms of technology use in language teaching and its effects on developing language and literacy practices. Just like Mark Warschauer, Carla Meskill is involved in Language Learning & Technology journal as an associate editor.

In the journal article, both authors are trying to compare and contrast the advantages and disadvantages of using technology in teaching and learning second language by looking at the impact of using technology starting from the earliest to the latest technology. Nowadays, more teachers are moving towards using technology in second language classroom. More schools and higher education institution are providing technology like language laboratory and computer laboratory to facilitate language learning. However, looking at the results of using previous technologies researches found that this seems like dejavu. Dejavu of disappointing results in terms of its success in teaching students the target language and whether it is worth the trouble in implementing technology in teaching language. For example, the use of Audio-Lingual Method in which students are made compulsory to go to the audio lab to continuously listen and repeat what they hear from the audio tapes ending up being like a ‘parrot’ without really understanding the communicative meaning. Same goes to the use of computer software programs which provide grammatical exercises in "drill-and-practice" method or, "drill-and-kill" as the authors stated. Both examples show poor results of success in acquiring second language but great loss in expensive laboratory and machines investment.

Thus, a question to be answered is whether or not technologies truly "work," and if yes, do they promote language learning in a cost-effective way? One thing that cannot be denied is that the advantages of using new technologies in the language classroom can only be seen in terms of the changing goals of language education. Since nowadays, students are exposed to international cross-cultural communication through the Internet it is important that the goal of second language learning is to prepare them with the language styles used in the target language and virtual domain. This is best to be taught in similar way that is through ICT to get them familiar with the language as well as the technology since they are going to use it too.

On the other hand, three aspects of potential disadvantages discussed by the authors are investment of money, investment of time and the uncertainly of results. The issue of investment of money comes when fund is not enough to provide good language software programs and hardware, maintenance purposes as well as the financial needs to train the teacher on how to use it. Investment of time occurs in the amount of time teachers need to spend in order to learn how to use the software programs and time to learn another new programs since these programs are constantly-changing. After successfully learning on how to use it, the teacher then need to find out the best way to integrate them in their teaching. Let alone the two investments and come the third aspect; the uncertainty whether it will be a success or failure. Dejavu might happen again.

This is an eye-opening to me especially the dejavu part. I cannot deny the investments needed are big deals. However, looking at the situation in which students nowadays are living we cannot just stick to the old way of language teaching and learning because students’ interests and motivation is important for successful learning. One thing for sure; there is no one perfect method without flaws. I believe we can use technology in language classroom successfully if we have good financial planning software selection. In the article, Warschauer and Meskill mentioned about cognitive and sociocognitive approaches in language learning. There are good language software programs that fulfill these two approaches requirements. Text-reconstruction software, concordancing software, telecommunications, and multimedia simulation software are examples of software that allow students to interact within meaning-rich contexts and construct and acquire competence in the language. Meanwhile, the Internet is perfect in assisting a sociocognitive approach to language teaching by allowing learners to learn a language by socializing in particular discourse communities.

Thus, the success of teaching second language by using technology is possible in general and can be implemented in Malaysia as long as we have good financial planning in investing money to equip schools with the software and hardware. Besides, we also need to guide and train teachers on using technologies.

1 comment:

Izaham Shah Ismail said...

The instruction says the article must be from 2002 onwards.